Cincinnati also to litigate against lead poison public nuisance - and their Enquirer puts PD to shame in covering issue

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Thu, 12/28/2006 - 16:18.

 Cincinnati Enquirer Lead Inspection Graphic

If we have anything to thank Ohio Republican legislators for, and especially Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican,  it is that their cloak-of-night passage of Substitute Senate Bill 117, which seeks to outlaw cities suing polluters for public nuisances they cause, and legislate-away other consumer rights for Ohioans, has driven our state capital of Columbus and now huge Ohio city Cincinnati to storm their courthouses to sue Sherwin-Williams and other paint companies over the public nuisance of lead poisoning in their communities, which is a legal position proved valid in the courts of the State of Rhode Island. In Columbus, the Mayor has said it was the action of these Republicans that forced them to sue. Of course, Ohioans' greatest appreciation goes to Mayor Brewer, of East Cleveland, who was the man who brought such public nuisance lead litigation to Ohio to protect his residents, the most effected by lead poisoning in the state, and so he is protecting all citizens of Ohio.

As reported in the PD: " "I had hoped to be able to resolve this issue without resorting to litigation," Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman wrote in a letter to the defendants earlier this month. "It was my intent to invite each of you to voluntarily partner with the city in its fight to eliminate lead poisoning and its source from the homes of Columbus' children."" And: "The city was forced to file suit after the legislature passed the bill Thursday, said Mike Brown, a spokesman for Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman." Of course, Sherwin-Williams has long demonstrated they do not take any responsibility nor care about the rights or health of our communities or citizens... they only care about covering the Earth with paint. From past PD coverage on this issue: "Sherwin-Williams will never settle, its spokesman Bob Wells said."


Lead Paint Sherwin-Williams sign in Cleveland 

With the progress of Cincinnati suing the paint industry, the PD is being forced to recognize this issue as beyond local cover-up and spin-doctoring, so today's Business Section gave prominent coverage of the development, with the article "Cincinnati piles on in suing Sherwin". Now, at least the people who read the business section are becoming educated about lead poisoning in our state, albeit from the Plain Dealing viewpont of major local employer and advertising buyer Sherwin-Williams, and their local powerhouse attorneys Jones Day.

Making lead poisoning a visible public issue is one of the greatest benefits of this wave of litigation against the paint industry, which has swept into the courts of half the other states in America, and Canada... not that the PD has realized providing such information is of value to the public, or that their readers need to know they are being poisoned. To see how other city newspapers are addressing the issue, I took a trip on-line to Cincinnati, and was awed.

While Cincinnati Enquirer coverage today of the litigation by their city was not extensive - "Sherwin-Williams sued over lead paint" -  in June of this year they published an astounding special report on lead poisoning in Cincinnati - "Lead's dangerous legacy" - that shows The Enquirer not only cares about this issue but has been a driving force in addressing the problem in Cincinnati, using their powers as a major newspaper to make public critical information on the issue and force the Cincinnati Health Department to admit and address defects in their commitment to eradicating lead poisoning and protecting the people of their community. As the introduction to the report states: "After a two-year court battle to get city health records, the Enquirer found that Cincinnati's Health Department is failing to force property owners to fix their buildings, leaving hundreds of children at risk for lead poisoning. This special report is a look at those findings and the stories of those left in its wake."

In the process, this special report offers some of the most insightful information on lead poisoning I've seen published anywhere in the world. For example, they published a list of all the properties in the city know to have lead hazards, based on their Department of Health data of children found to have elevated blood levels!

Especially insightful was a report on some of the costs to society of lead poisoning: "UC researcher discovers links to lead, crime - The higher the levels, the more likelihood for delinquent behavior". This research has found: "juvenile delinquents are five times more likely than other children to have elevated lead levels." Also: "Lead exposure in early childhood may have played an important role in the national epidemic of violent crime in the late 20th century and the dramatic decline of crime rates over the past decade, said Rick Nevin, an economist for the National Center for Healthy Housing in Washington." "Nevin, hired by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the early 1990s to do a cost-benefit analysis of removing lead paint from public housing, said he was stunned to discover a strong relationship between the use of leaded gasoline and violent crime. "The statistics show lead has had a significant impact on crime," he said."

I was very pleased to see mentioned, in one of the special report articles, that our Cleveland health department is recognized as doing much better enforcing lead safety: "Cleveland: In 2004, the city passed an ordinance that allows for lead-poisoned child investigations, declares lead-paint hazards a nuisance, requires people selling properties to disclose known lead hazards, requires a permit for exterior paint removal and incorporates state lead law and federal disclosure rules. The city's lead prevention program is subsidized by $1.6 million from the Saint Luke's Foundation of Cleveland. Hundreds of landlords who don't comply with orders to clean up are brought to court every year. One has been jailed."

I've been involved with this initiative, called the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council (GCLAC), since 2004, and it is nationally recognized for the collaboration it has created to address lead poisoning in our region. As for the City of Cleveland joining the other major cities in the State, and East Cleveland in our region, in suing the paint industry, the Plain Dealer today reports: " Cleveland, the home of Sherwin-Williams, is still considering its options, said Maureen Harper, spokeswoman for Mayor Frank Jackson. She said that the city has "significant issues" with lead poisoning and that its Health Department is active in prevention and intervention." The GCLAC Steering Committee next meets January 8th, at 2 PM, at Trinity Commons, and I expect this litigation issue may be discussed then. This meeting is open to the public, and I'll share any related insight on REALNEO.


Lead hazard warning on Cleveland bus in Spanish